Floyd Cardoz, the exec chef at Tabla, was recently named a James Beard semi-finalist in the Best Chef: New York City category. I love Tabla, but eating from Cardoz’s cookbook, One Spice Two Spice, a lot easier on the wallet–although you’ve got to do the work yourself. There are recipes for Tabla signatures like Goan spiced crab cakes with avocado salad and rice flake-crisped halibut with watermelon curry. I especially like the brisket recipe, which calls for marinating brisket in Indian spices, Mexican chiles, Belgian ale and tomatoes for three days, and then just throwing it in the oven.
Last night, roux and gumbo were on my mind, a result of watching that entertaining trainwreck, Top Chef. I remembered that One Spice Two Spice has an unusual recipe for shrimp gumbo, with a roux that’s made from chickpea flour (besan) and butter. You simmer the stew with lots of spices, garlic, ginger and shallots, plus rosemary, thyme, tarragon and white mushrooms. (That’s why I love this cookbook–I would never think to combine those flavors.) Then you strain all the solids out at the end to make a smoothish sauce for the shrimp. It’s a little fussy, but the recipe works well, and the end result is so unusual and tasty that I think it’s worth it.
The finished roux, meant to be “glossy chestnut brown”
Yield: Serves 6
Recipe from One Spice Two Spice by Floyd Cardoz. I cut the butter by a fourth, and the roux still performed well. You can find chickpea flour and the spices at any Indian grocery.
For the roux:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
For the gumbo:
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon mustard oil
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 cup sliced shallot
1/4 cup sliced garlic
1/4 cup peeled, sliced ginger
1 pound white mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 quart chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 (5-inch) sprigs rosemary
2 (5-inch) sprigs thyme
2 (5-inch) sprigs tarragon
5 teaspoons tamarind paste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
30 extra-large shrimp (16 to 20 count), peeled and deveined
Melt the butter in a heavy 2-quart pan over moderately low heat and add the flour. Cook the roux, stirring constantly and shaking the pan, for 12 to 14 minutes, or until it turns smooth and a glossy chestnut brown. (The roux will first tighten up and look too dry, but then become loose again. It will also be very hot, so be careful.) Transfer the roux to a bowl and let cool.
Coarsely grind the fenugreek seeds in an electric coffee/spice grinder. Leaving the fenugreek in the grinder, add the peppercorns and grind coarse. Repeat with the coriander seeds and then the cumin seeds.
Heat the mustard oil in a wide, relatively shallow 6- to 8-quart pan over moderately high heat until smoking, about 1 minute, then remove the pan from the heat. (Mustard oil is very pungent, so don’t breathe it in when it’s smoking.) Add 1 tablespoon of the canola oil, return the pan to moderately high heat, and heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the mustard seeds, and as soon as they pop and are fragrant, after about 30 seconds, reduce the heat to moderate and add the shallot, garlic, ginger, and the ground spices. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, then stir in the mushrooms, white wine, roux and stock. Whisk in the cayenne and add the rosemary, thyme and tarragon. Simmer the mixture for 5 minutes, and stir in the tamarind paste. Reduce the mixture until it measures about 4 cups, about 20 minutes, and season with the sugar, salt and pepper to taste.
Strain the sauce through a sieve set over a bowl, pressing on the solids with the back of a ladle. Discard the solids and keep the sauce warm on the stove.
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees, and sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining canola oil in a skillet over high heat until it shimmers and add about a third of the shrimp. Sear the shrimp, turning after 30 seconds, until the shrimp are lightly browned (the caramelization adds wonderful flavor), about 1 minute. Transfer the shrimp to a baking sheet. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Cook the remaining shrimp in 2 more batches in the same way, wiping out the skillet after each batch and adding 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet. Transfer each batch of shrimp as cooked to the baking sheet. Roast all the shrimp in the middle of the oven for 2 minutes.
Put the shrimp on a large platter and spoon the sauce over it to serve.